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Network Rail owns Britain’s railway tracks. When they were privately owned by Railtrack, there were several fatal crashes [Image: Jonathan Brady/PA].

Network Rail owns Britain’s railway tracks. When they were privately owned by Railtrack, there were several fatal crashes [Image: Jonathan Brady/PA].

The man responsible for the “slave labour” work placement schemes that made huge profits for companies by making people work for benefits has turned his talents to bringing death back to our railways.

But company bosses need not worry – Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has already ensured that nobody will be able to bring court cases against them if the worst happens, because he already made justice too expensive during his time as Lord Chancellor.

No doubt Mr Grayling is already preparing his excuses – he is, after all, the man who accused unemployed people of being scroungers after he scrounged more than £100,000 in expenses for a London flat, despite having a family home nearby.

He is already claiming that putting the new Oxford-to-Cambridge rail route in completely private hands is not a prelude to fully privatising the rail network, even though that is exactly how it appears.

And how well did that work last time?

The rail network – track, signalling, tunnels, bridges, level crossings and all but a handful of the stations – passed into the hands of a company called Railtrack for a period between 1994, when rail privatisation took place, and 2002.

We all learned very quickly that privatising the infrastructure meant the company concerned would rather forego its duty to improve the system in favour of trying to turn a profit.

Serious shortcomings were identified, there were fatal crashes at Southall and Ladbroke Grove, and then the Hatfield crash of 2000 – a metal fatigue-induced derailment that killed four people and injured 70 – exposed the extent to which the rail network had been allowed to fall into disrepair.

Railtrack had absolutely no idea how many more Hatfields were waiting to happen on its sorely-neglected stock. and after the public organisation Network Rail took over, it has been estimated that repair work cost £580 million.

Now Mr Grayling thinks we have all forgotten the darkest days of the UK’s railways.

He should think again.

But this bonehead is so stupid, another fatal accident will probably happen before he does.

The government has unveiled plans for a fully privatised railway line, with track and trains operated by the same company.

A new route linking Oxford and Cambridge will not be developed by Network Rail, the owner of Britain’s rail infrastructure. Instead, a new entity will be responsible for track and infrastructure, as well as operating train services, under proposals drawn up by the transport secretary, Chris Grayling.

In a keynote speech on Tuesday, Grayling will outline how the government plans to reunite the operation of tracks and trains, which are currently the respective responsibility of publicly owned Network Rail and private train operating companies (TOCs).

While officials at the Department for Transport have disputed reports that Grayling is seeking more immediate challenges to Network Rail, unions pledged to fight the proposed changes.

The RMT union said Grayling’s rail plans would recreate privatisation chaos that it claims he introduced in the prison system as justice secretary.

Grayling denied he was intent on privatisation. “I don’t intend to sell off the existing rail network. I don’t intend to privatise Network Rail again,” he told Today. He said the Oxford and Cambridge rail link would be developed by a separate company outside Network Rail in the same way that the Crossrail link had been developed in London.

Source: Chris Grayling to unveil plans for new fully privatised railway line | UK news | The Guardian

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